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Old 07-19-2009, 12:56 PM   #1
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The Great Callicoon Car Race

For a while I have been doing research on a race that was held in Callicoon NY in the early 50's. I finally found the old race course and my wife and i went on a run today. What a blast.


It happened only once, but for that weekend it thrust western Sullivan County into the center of the sports car racing world. It went off virtually without a hitch, and one expert said afterward that the route could have become the best in the country, but the event was never repeated.

It was the Sullivan County Sports Car Race, and it was held on June 28, 1953.

The event– there were four different races scheduled and three actually contested– was sponsored by the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon and was conducted under the auspices of the Jersey Sports Car Club with help from the Motor Sports Car Club of America and the Long Island Sports Car Association. The races were held on an 8.2 mile long course that had been laid out on the public roads in Callicoon, Fremont Center , Obernberg and Schaferszak Corners.

The races were advertised in both Motorsport magazine and the New York times newspaper, and a number of well-known sports car drivers participated, although historian Bill Green of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, New York says that the Sports Car Club of America discouraged its members from racing because it considered the course too treacherous.

Carl Goodwin, in an article entitled "The Fabulous Callicoon Sports Car Races" he wrote for Vintage Racecar magazine in 2006, noted that it was, in fact, a dangerous course.

"The course was mostly a macadam surface with a 2-mile unpaved section and even some gravel on the two sharpest turns," he wrote, and quoting one of the participants, continued, "‘The course ran around the base of a mountain. It had steep hills, narrow bridges, and concrete abutments.’"

Green describes the course as having a steep hill at the start, and then a sharp ninety degree turn at Schaferszak Corners, followed by a fairly long straightaway into Obernberg. At the Catholic Church in Obernberg, the course veered right again, and a series of s-curves followed as the route continued to Fremont Center, where it turned 130 degrees to the right onto the road coming from Hankins and Mileses. That turn in particular stands out to this day in racer Gordon MacKenzie’s memory.

"The bar on the corner was so close to the road that if they’d opened the door, we would have hit it," MacKenzie told Goodwin.

Nonetheless, fifty cars took part in the racing that Sunday in an effort to raise money for the youth of the Callicoon area.

The races were the idea of Lew Schulz, a New Jersey car dealer and founder and president of the Jersey Sports Car Club. Schulz had sold a car to Bill Bergner, the president of the Delaware Youth Center , and he convinced Bergner that a race would make a great fundraiser for the Center. Other officers of the youth group included Dr. Edmund Rumble, Arthur Orth, and Nellie Stabbert, while Martha MacGrath, Evalena Traynor, John McDonald, John Wagner and John Lewee served as Directors. Bergner sold them on the idea of giving the race a try. Dr. George Mills was selected to head up the race committee, while Fred Stabbert, Jr. served as official race photographer.

The event kicked off on Friday in Callicoon with technical inspections of the entered automobiles at Carl’s Motor Sales on Main Street and physical exams for the drivers at the Western Hotel, which served as race headquarters. On Saturday, drivers were allowed to take their cars onto the course for practice, but the roads were not shut down to traffic during that time, making for what one driver described as "a few close calls."

There were four races scheduled to get underway beginning at 11 AM on Sunday. The Fremont Trophy Race was first, to be followed by the Callicoon Trophy Race at 12:45, then the Delaware Trophy Race at 2:30 and the Sullivan County Trophy Race at 3:45. Each race was open to cars of specific engine displacements. Once the racing began, two time consuming accidents in the first division led race organizers to combine the next two races into one in order to get the event back on schedule. As it was, the final race concluded just a few minutes before the time the roads were to be reopened to public traffic.

The first race, with 20 stock MGs competing over five laps, actually got started at 11:38 A.M. and two of the MGs crashed on the first lap along the road between Obernberg and Fremont Center , delaying the contest by over an hour, and causing a restart. The second (combined) race did not get started until after 3 P.M. It was completed at 4:58, and the final contest got underway at 5:17 PM with seven entrants finishing at 5:51 PM.

The race lost money, though everyone involved seemed to agree that it would undoubtedly prove profitable in the future. Race organizers and the drivers themselves all raved about the experience, and expressed almost unanimous support for repeating it the next year.

"Ruth Sands Bentley, wife of Siata driver John Bentley, noted that it was actually a nice race," Goodwin wrote. "The 10,000 spectators were well-behaved, officials were not too, well, officious, there was plenty of parking space, and local people welcomed the racers. ‘They couldn’t have been friendlier,’ is the way she put it.’"

Drivers also praised the event, with John Bentley describing the course as having "wonderful possibilities." With some widening of the roads, paving, and chopping down some trees, Bentley ventured, "it could become the finest road course in the USA ."

However, due to the perceived danger of racing on such a rustic course and the associated liability, the Delaware Youth Center decided not to make the event an annual affair.

That decision ensured that the Sullivan County Sports Car Races would literally be a once in a lifetime event.

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Old 04-01-2011, 12:55 PM   #2
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callicoon road race


I'm wondering if you have any additional info on the Callicoon Road Race. I recently purchased a Telegram confirmation from 1953 which indicated that a Singer driven by Lammy Lamoreaux actually won the Fremont Trophy. I have seen elsewhere that the Trophy was awarded to an MG driver (the race was an all MG event with the exception of Lamoreaux' Singer from Glendale California). Do you know if he was ineligible to win because he was driving a Singer and the trophy defaulted to an MG owner.


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